If you are like me, and you love the warm honey-glow of a newly varnished coaming, the glint of light off a distant toerail, or the intimidating majesty of the solid golden wall of hatchboards, you insist on using varnish despite many new-fangled inventions like, say, Cetol.
Part of why I like using varnish is the mystery of its mixture; like home made BBQ sauce, we could tell you what's in it, but we won't. The ingredients were figured out by experience, by some toothless old salt in a New Bedford shipyard, not by some chemist in a lab comparing the essential properties of wood and cell structure and how these would best be served by a certain mix of poly-this and esther-that.
Varnish is one of the ways we can carry the Old Ways forward. Even Shakespeare wrote about varnish. It was something like, "We few. We happy few. We band of brothers. For those who spread their varnish with us today shall always be our brothers."
Now, not everyone appreciates the varnish. There's a faction of so-called traditionalists who "prefer to let their teak silver." These guys also prefer to let their teak splinter, crack, and get replaced.
But if you are planning to use varnish on your teak, prepare to be insulted. For example, just the other day a guy in the boatyard remarked about how much wood there is on the Redwing. This is a well-sailed path and I knew what was coming next. And sure enough, he said, "you should think about using Cetol." So, playing my part, I said, "Yeah, I just like the look of varnish better." Right on cue he said, "I figure I'll get the boat with a lot of wood on it when I retire; I don't want to waste my life away varnishing."
There are dozens of permutations of this conversation but this is pretty much the way it goes. People invariably have "better things to do" than varnish, they "have a life," or they "would rather be sailing." No shit; me too. Nobody would say, "yeah I see you drinking a Bud Light, but I don't like to drink beer that tastes like it run out the back of a horse." But with varnish, there is no holding back; if you want to put in the time and effort you must have nothing better to do, enjoy wasting your time, and don't like sailing. It's strange. I don't get it.
But we happy few will persevere in the face of new "traditions." We will rest our backs on coamings buried under eight coats of high-gloss Epifanes and know that somewhere an old toothless salt is watching us, grinning into his mug o' rum.